Boris Johnson’s other Scottish headache – POLITICO

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LONDON — Boris Johnson has a second headache in Scotland to go with the nationalists’ push for independence — Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross.

The Moray MP has long been a thorn in the side of his political sparring partners, including people in his own camp. He caused headaches for Conservatives and administration chiefs when he served on a local council more than a decade ago, and intensified the turmoil in Downing Street when he quit the government over Johnson’s refusal to sack his top aide Dominic Cummings after he broke lockdown rules.

Since becoming Scottish leader, Ross has locked horns with Johnson on countless issues, and racked up a number of wins in the process. His allies paint him as a determined campaigner who will stop at nothing for what he believes.

Ross, who also battles football fans as a high-profile referee, wears his rebellious nature as a badge of pride. “This isn’t just something that I’ve developed since I became leader of the Scottish Conservatives in the summer of 2020,” he told POLITICO. “I’ve taken what people would describe as sometimes rebellious positions because I believe they were absolutely the right decisions to be taken for the people I was representing at the time.”

The question is whether his single-mindedness and determination can help roll back the growing support for Scottish independence. The Scottish National Party, which has been in power in Edinburgh for more than a decade, is on course to win big at Holyrood elections in May, while a string of polls have suggested Scots would now back independence if another referendum were held. 


For more polling data from across Europe visit POLITICO Poll of Polls.

As leader of the main opposition party in Scotland, Ross has a big job on the frontline of the unionist fight. The scale of the challenge is immense, with Ross struggling for attention north of the border and the Conservatives still slipping in opinion polls. But numerous supporters interviewed for this piece argue his uncompromising nature makes him the perfect person to take the fight to the nationalists. 

“He’s as hard as nails,” said his former boss in government, Scotland Secretary Alister Jack. “He’s his own man. And when he takes a stand on something, he’s very principled on it.”

Mary Scanlon, a former member of the Scottish parliament who Ross worked for as an aide — his first job in politics — argued he had the steel for the independence fight: “He’s the one to bring the party forward, to face down the SNP, to face down independence and to move Scotland forward.”

Ross’s political opponents paint him as a “chameleon” who is most interested in his own career. But Ross points out that taking principled stances to serve his constituents, including quitting the U.K. government, are not the approach of a careerist politician. 

“I got involved in politics because I was passionate about standing up for people in my area,” he said. “And I think I can take that passion and enthusiasm that I have for improving Scotland from a local level to a national level.” He is so committed to Scotland, he insists he would remain living there even if it voted for independence.

His supporters agree. Annie Wells, the former co-deputy of the Scottish Conservatives, who Ross sacked when he got the new gig (although she holds no grudge), said he comes at politics more from the perspective of right and wrong than as a Conservative ideologue.

A rebel with various causes

Ross caused strife for his colleagues as soon as he entered the debating chamber. “Douglas was a rebel long before he met Boris Johnson,” said Scanlon, who recalls his battles with the council in Moray, where he and other Conservatives formed an administration with independents in 2007. “He’s not frightened to stand up to his own group.”

Indeed, his allegiance didn’t last long. He quit in 2009 after finding himself at odds with the leadership over numerous local issues. He re-joined following an election, but continued to vote against the administration, and was ousted again in 2014 in a row about school closures, during which he helped topple Conservative council boss Allan Wright.

In addition to being the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Douglas Ross is also a football assistant referee | Pool photo by Willie Vass/Getty Images

Stewart Cree, an independent who was convenor of the council at the time, had countless run-ins with Ross. He said the councillor appeared to enjoy the confrontations, although he had “exemplary self-control” and would remain calm while those around him grew enraged. 

“I had quite a lot of experience in managing people,” Cree said, noting his 31 years as a senior police officer. “But I never found a way of dealing with Douglas.” He added: “Douglas is not a team player. I sometimes think that’s why he’s a referee. Douglas is very much his own man … he won’t compromise.”

Later, when Ross took a seat in the House of Commons, Cree smiled when he saw his former foe sitting in the same place as he did in the Moray council chamber. He would skulk “in a strange little island all on his own,” Cree said, “as far to the back and as far to the wall as you can get.”

When Ross later quit over the Cummings row, Cree sent him an email to congratulate his old sparring partner on giving his political allies a fresh kicking.:“I was most impressed.” Ross too remembers the note with affection.

Scanlon said the resignation, and Ross’s history of rebellion, will help him in the fight against independence, proving he will “stand up for Scotland” over seeking promotion or patronage. “He’ll argue the case for Scotland at every possibility, and I think he’ll stand no nonsense from Boris if there are policies that Douglas feels are detrimental to Scotland.”

Political frenemies

The prime minister has faced the wrath of Ross on numerous occasions since he became Scottish Conservative leader (unopposed) in August 2020. Claims that the pair have good relations are less than convincing.

The Scot has kicked up a fuss about (among other things) post-Brexit agricultural standards; Scots’ access to furlough cash during the coronavirus pandemic; and most recently over border turmoil for fishing businesses. He has delivered public criticism of Johnson’s presentational approach, and took the PM to task after he branded devolution a “disaster.”

But Ross insists the pair are on good terms — although he dodges the chance to describe them as friends: “Given how rebellious I’ve been I think a number of people you’ve spoken to would probably never call me a mate.”

The two of them “have a really robust discussion” in meetings and over messages and “have a very good professional relationship,” Ross said. “I will continue to work with him where I think it’s right for Scotland. And where I think it’s wrong, or where I think we can do more for Scotland, I’ll stand up and say that as well.”

“They get on very well, genuinely,” said Jack, the Scotland secretary. “They have a healthy respect for each other and a mutual respect for each other.” He added that Johnson “understands that Douglas is the leader in Scotland … We have different policies in Scotland on certain things.”

Douglas Ross meeting Chancellor Rishi Sunak, right, at Wemyss Bay, on the west coast of Scotland, on August 7, 2020 | Andy Buchanan/AFP via Getty Images

Indeed, it is expected that the leader of the Scottish Conservatives will clash with Westminster from time to time. It is its own force with its own manifesto and agenda. “You can’t be leader of the Scottish Conservative Party and just go along with everything the U.K. government’s doing if you don’t agree and it doesn’t fit in into Scotland,” said Jack’s predecessor in the Scotland Office, David Mundell.

Nevertheless, the attacks from Ross appear more frequent than those from predecessors, and bite harder because he can make them in the Commons chamber direct to the prime minister. Ross is the first Scottish Conservative leader to be an MP — although he plans to return to Holyrood as a Highlands and Islands MSP at the May elections.

Observers point out that being at odds with Johnson — who is deeply unpopular in Scotland — could be no bad thing for taking the fight to the nationalists. “Distancing himself against Boris gives him a little bit of armor against Boris’s Scottish reputation,” said Cree. 

A Downing Street spokesperson said: “The PM works closely with Douglas Ross and all Conservative colleagues across Scotland as we continue to strengthen the Union.” But asked to comment on the degree of license Ross has to fight for Scottish issues, even if it means going against the Westminster government’s approach, the spokesperson declined.

How to save a Union

The battle plan for saving the Union includes numerous strands. Taking on Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP over their record in government north of the border is high on the agenda. Ross used all opportunities during the interview to pivot back to attacks on his opponents.

But he also hopes to present the Scottish Conservatives as a credible government in their own right. Other Conservatives point out the need to promote expected opportunities from Brexit (which 62 percent of Scots rejected in 2016) and argue that an independent Scotland will be ineligible for EU membership.


For more polling data from across Europe visit POLITICO Poll of Polls.

Downing Street also hopes to champion the work of the Westminster government for the whole of the U.K., including through the pandemic, as well as make the economic argument against independence (although Ross insists “it shouldn’t be ‘Project Fear.’ That would be wrong” — a reference to the SNP’s characterization of the unionist campaign during the 2014 independence referendum).

The holding line is that the Westminster government will refuse a fresh independence referendum no matter what — but there are questions about whether that is tenable if the SNP wins big in the spring. “The line should be let’s wait and see what happens in the election in May,” Ross said. “Because while I wouldn’t put a number on how many seats I think the Conservatives will win, we don’t know what the outcome is going to be.”

He refused to set out what progress would be needed at the Holyrood elections for him to remain in the job, but suggested he was playing the long game, noting that once — albeit a long time ago — the SNP and the independence movement were struggling for support. The long game appears to be his only option, with the first struggle the task of making himself known to the Scottish public. That’s particularly tough when the pandemic and daily broadcasts from Sturgeon are sucking up all the political oxygen.

Ross feels the weight of the job of saving the Union on his shoulders. He even admits to losing sleep over it. “When you take on the responsibility of leading the Conservatives, you’re also taking on this responsibility for the Union,” he said. “It’s a hugely important election that we’re going to face in Scotland in a few months time.”

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More contagious U.K. COVID strain is also deadlier, Boris Johnson warns

BARCELONA — It was a bad end to a bad COVID week in Europe. On Friday evening, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that researchers had found “some evidence” that the recently discovered U.K. variant of the coronavirus, which was already known to be more contagious than the original strain and has prompted an alarming surge of cases and a lockdown in that country, “may be associated with a higher degree of mortality.” A 30 percent higher mortality, added his government lead scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance, in revealing the assessment by that country’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group. He added there is still “a lot of uncertainty” about exactly how lethal the variant is.

Responding to the news, Yahoo News Medical Contributor Dr. Kavita Patel explained that “10 different studies with models show that the [U.K.] variant has a higher risk of death compared to the non-U.K. variants,” but underscored that “these are studies and models, not necessarily clinical trials.” She added that if the U.K. strain is in fact more deadly, it becomes “more urgent to get vaccines out as soon as possible” and that epidemiologists need to more clearly “understand the spread of the variant here in the U.S.”

The variant, which is believed to be as much as 70 percent more transmissible than the predominant strain in the U.S., has been identified in at least 20 states among Americans with no recent history of foreign travel, indicating it is spreading rapidly. The CDC says it could become the dominant strain in the U.S. by March.

The U.K. report hit Spain particularly hard, as new cases there have been spiking since the holiday season ended, with Friday’s announcement of 44,357 new cases breaking all previous daily records. Only the U.S. and Brazil are reporting higher numbers of new cases. At least 5 percent of the cases in this Spanish “third wave” are believed to be the U.K. variant, which the Spanish government’s chief scientific COVID adviser, Fernando Simón, believes will be the dominant strain in Spain within a few weeks.

Boris Johnson
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. (Leon Neal/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

The dramatic spike was initially believed to be a reflection of the extended holiday season in Spain, which stretches from Dec. 24 to Jan. 6, during which some restrictions, such as curfews and travel between regions, were eased. However, with hospitalizations hitting new highs, epidemiologists realized that the U.K. variant, which first showed up in Spain a month ago, was evident in increasing numbers, and appears to be fueling the rising cases, particularly in the country’s south.

Thus far, the Spanish national government — which has mandated mask wearing in all public places, including on the streets, curtailed hours of restaurant operations and imposed a nationwide 10 p.m. curfew in October — is denying requests from Spain’s regions to set the curfew to 8 p.m. or to impose a full lockdown.

In fact, in the land where tourism is an economic driver, Spanish authorities have recently announced they hope Spain’s tourism will be back on track by late summer, by which time the prime minister believes at least 70 percent of Spaniards will have been vaccinated, a process that started last month.

Patel stressed that “despite this sobering news, we still believe vaccines can work against these variants and be incredibly important, especially for those at high risk for dying from COVID.” But as vaccines may need to be tweaked to address the British and other new variants, Americans “need to triple down on our public health efforts” such as donning masks and social distancing.


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Boris Johnson does not nap at work, says No 10 aide – Channel 4 News

It’s official: Boris Johnson has not been napping on the job. It might be understandable for someone who has been recovering from Covid hospitalisation with a nine-month old baby to want to grab 40 winks occasionally. But according to Number 10’s press secretary, it simply doesn’t happen.

Allegra Stratton said there is simply no space for a siesta as Boris Johnson’s day is jam-packed. The story was awoken by The Times newspaper and Downing Street is clearly concerned about it denting the PM’s popularity.

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Brexit: Boris Johnson promises compensation to firms experiencing issues exporting to EU | Politics News

Businesses experiencing problems exporting to the EU “through no fault of their own” will receive compensation, the prime minister has said.

Boris Johnson said he “understands the frustrations” of businesses exporting to the continent who have run into issues since new post-Brexit UK-EU trading rules came into effect.

He was speaking after angry seafood hauliers stacked their lorries outside Downing Street in protest.

Police said 14 people had been given fines after Monday’s protest

They have complained of being “tied in knots with paperwork” and about new checks, resulting in delays exporting fresh fish and seafood to the EU since the start of the year.

“I sympathise very much and understand their frustrations and things have been exacerbated by COVID and the demand hasn’t been what it was before the pandemic and that’s one of the problems we’re trying to deal with. That’s driven in large part by the pandemic,” the prime minister said.

“Where businesses, through no fault of their own, have faced difficulties exporting where there is a genuine willing buyer, there’s a £23m fund to help out.”

Despite their difficulties, Mr Johnson said there would be “great opportunities” for fishermen UK-wide to “to take advantage of the spectacular marine wealth of the United Kingdom”.

He added: “In just five-and-a-half years’ time, we will have access to all the fish in all our waters.

“And just now, we have access to 25% more than we did just a month ago. That means there is scope for fishing communities across the UK to take advantage of the increase in quota.

“What we’re going to do is give people a helping hand and that’s why we’ve set up the £100m fund to help people with boats, to help with the fish processing industry, the opportunity is massive.”

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Fisherman’s rant over Brexit red tape

Fourteen people had been given fines after Monday morning’s protest, the Metropolitan Police confirmed.

“The industry is being tied in knots with paperwork requirements which would be easy enough to navigate, given that companies have put in the time and training in order to have all the relevant procedures in place for 1st January 2021,” said a spokesperson for D R Collin & Son, a Berwickshire-based firm that took part in the London demonstration.

“However, all the training is going to waste as the technology is outdated and cannot cope with the demands being placed on it – which in turn is resulting in no produce being able to leave the UK.

“These are not ‘teething issues’ as reported by the government and the consequences of these problems will be catastrophic on the lives of fishermen, fishing towns and the shellfish industry as a whole.”

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Brexit issues not just ‘teething problems’ – Justin King

Alasdair Hughson, chairman of the Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation, said the industry wanted to “make its voice heard loud and clear”.

“If this debacle does not improve very soon we are looking at many established businesses coming to the end of the line,” he said.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said ministers were “trying to blame the fishing communities rather than accepting it’s their failure to prepare”.

He said: “They are beyond frustrated, they are pretty angry about what’s gone on because the government has known there would be a problem with fishing and particularly the sale of fish into the EU for years.”

Fergus Ewing, Scotland’s rural economy secretary, said the new trading rules were having a “catastrophic impact on Scotland’s food and drink export industry” and any compensation may be “too little too late” for some businesses.

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Covid-19: Boris Johnson makes daily jab pledge as Army helps rollout

Boris Johnson says the armed forces will use “battle preparation techniques” to help vaccinate millions.

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Where are border Covid tests Boris? PM under fire over plan to demand negative result to enter UK

Boris Johnson was under pressure to sort out plans to demand people have a negative Covid test result before the enter Britain. 

Ministers have indicated that such a requirement is coming in a bid to block any influx of new variants of coronavirus after a South African strain was found in the UK.

But no firm details have yet been released and the Prime Minister came under fire in the Commons today over when they will be brought in and how much notice will be given. 

It came as new figures from Labour showed that just three in every 100 people arriving in the UK are being checked to see if they are complying with quarantine requirements.

Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds has written to Priti Patel to demand ‘an urgent review and improvement plan of quarantine arrangements’. 

He claimed the current system of checking up on only a fraction of people is leaving the UK ‘defenceless and completely exposed’ to importing coronavirus variants. 

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer took aim at the PM in the Commons today as politicians returned to vote on the new lockdown rules.

‘The Prime Minister knows there is real concern about the rapid transmission of this disease. There are new strains being detected in South Africa, Denmark and elsewhere. The quarantine system isn’t working,’ Sir Keir said.

‘The Prime Minister said yesterday that we will be bringing in extra measures at the border. I have to ask, why are those measures not introduced already? They have been briefed to the media for days but nothing has happened.’

Mr Johnson gave no details and only offered a bland statement, saying: ‘I think it is vital we protect our borders and protect this country from the readmission of the virus from overseas and that is why we took tough action in respect of South Africa when the new variant became apparent there and we will continue to take whatever action is necessary to protect this country from the readmission of the virus.’     

Keir Starmer

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer took aim at the PM (both pictured above)  in the Commons today as politicians returned to vote on the new lockdown rules.

Labour analysis suggested three in every 100 UK arrivals are checked to ensure they are complying with quarantine measures

Labour analysis suggested three in every 100 UK arrivals are checked to ensure they are complying with quarantine measures  

Nick Thomas-Symonds

Priti Patel

Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds has written to Priti Patel to demand urgent improvement to the travel quarantine programme

Mr Johnson said last night that the Government will be bringing in measures to ensure people arriving in the UK have been tested. 

But the imposition of a third national lockdown has prompted growing calls for immediate action and questions over why a requirement for a negative test before arrival in the UK has not already been introduced. 

Mr Thomas-Symonds said Labour analysis of Government data suggested just three per cent of arrivals expected to quarantine in England and Northern Ireland were successfully contacted by compliance checkers in the summer.

He said the Government’s Isolation Assurance Service, tasked with ensuring quarantine compliance, did not contact more than 1.9 million of the two million passengers spot checked by Border Force between June and September. 

In a letter to the Home Secretary, Mr Thomas-Symonds said the numbers were ‘deeply concerning’ and demonstrate that ‘efforts to track, trace and isolate cases coming into the UK have been completely undermined’. 

He said: ‘The lack of a robust quarantine system as a result of shortcomings from the Government mean that it is virtually impossible to keep a grip on this spread or other variants that may come from overseas, leaving the UK defenceless, and completely exposed, with the nation’s doors unlocked to further COVID mutations. 

The Labour frontbencher said there must be ‘an urgent review and improvement plan of quarantine arrangements’ rolled out as soon as possible.

The calls for action come amid growing concerns over a variant of the disease discovered in South Africa.

The Home Office defended its ‘stringent measures’, and pointed to its move to stop direct flights from South Africa to the UK. 

A Government spokesman said: ‘The figures in this letter are inaccurate. Border Force have conducted more than three million spot checks and PHE (Public Health England) have been contacting a further 1,500 people each day.

‘We are determined to reduce the spread of coronavirus. Our stringent measures, such as compulsory Passenger Locator Forms and spot checks both at the border and during quarantine periods, have seen a high level of compliance.’ 

Mr Johnson told a Downing Street press conference last night that the Government will be ‘bringing in measures to ensure that we test people coming into this country and prevent the virus from being readmitted’. 

Ministers are understood to be considering introducing a requirement for international arrivals to have a negative coronavirus test before travelling to Britain in order to tackle surging cases. Hauliers would be exempt.

Currently arrivals into England from nations that are not exempted under the travel corridor programme must isolate for 10 days.

But under the test and release scheme introduced in December, this can be shortened if they have a private test five days after their departure and it comes back negative.

During the first lockdown, the Government argued against introducing border restrictions while the prevalence was so high in the UK, with experts arguing it would do little to bring down infection rates.

However, a quarantine period was introduced in June after the first peak and when cases were more under control.

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COVID-19: Boris Johnson to hold Downing Street news conference from 5pm | Politics News

Boris Johnson will hold a news conference with England’s chief medical officer and chief scientific adviser later today, Downing Street has said.

The prime minister will be joined by Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance from 5pm, on the first day of England’s third national lockdown.

In a national address on Monday, Mr Johnson announced another shutdown to try and control the spread of COVID-19.

Live COVID updates as lockdown begins

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Tighter restrictions as new lockdown begins

People are once again being told to stay home, apart from for a limited number of exceptions, while schools and colleges will be closed to the majority of pupils.

Offering some potential light at the end of the tunnel, the PM spoke of his hope that everyone in the top four priority groups for vaccination will have been offered a jab by the middle of February, allowing restrictions to start being eased.

A surge in cases is being driven by a new variant of coronavirus that has been judged to be between 50% and 70% more transmissible.

As of Monday, there were 26,626 COVID patients in hospital in England – an increase of over 30% in one week and now more than 40% higher than the peak of the first wave of infections last April.

There has also been a near 25% increase in the number of deaths in the past seven days, compared to the previous week.

A senior minister told Sky News earlier that the government “should be able” to begin easing the lockdown in March.

Michael Gove said the public should not expect a sudden relaxation of the rules, with restrictions “progressively” eased instead.

“We will keep these constantly under review but you are absolutely right, we can’t predict with certainty that we will be able to lift restrictions in the week commencing February 15-22,” he said.

“What we will be doing is everything that we can to make sure that as many people as possible are vaccinated, so that we can begin to progressively lift restrictions.

“I think it is right to say that as we enter March we should be able to lift some of these restrictions, but not necessarily all.”

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‘Some restrictions could be lifted in March’

He warned of “very, very difficult weeks ahead” and said the country was in a “race against time” against the variant.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told Sky News he has some “quarrels and criticisms” with the government over the latest shutdown, but added that “everybody recognises how serious this is”.

“This is a time where we all have to say we will support the restrictions and do what we can to make these work,” he said.

Sir Keir said he had “doubts” about the vaccination target outlined by the PM, adding: “This is a race against time – I want the government to succeed… and I will offer my support.”

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Coronavirus Australia live updates January 5, 2021: Four new cases in NSW as Berala and some Western Sydney residents banned from Sydney test cricket match; Worries about Berala teen who went to regional NSW; PM’s push to get Victorians home; Three new local cases in Victoria as temple added to exposure sites; Fresh UK lockdown ordered by Boris Johnson

NSW Health has released a new list of venues in the state’s west that were visited by a teenager who has since tested positive to coronavirus.

An 18-year-old who went to the Berala BWS – the centre of a current outbreak – on Christmas Eve then went to Broken Hill, Orange, and Nyngan.

Anyone who attended the following venues is a close contact who must get tested immediately and isolate for 14 days, regardless of the result:

  • Broken Hill: Gourmet Cribtin, 305 Argent St, Saturday, 2 January, 10.40am – 11.20am
  • Orange: Birdie Noshery and Drinking est. 120-122 Summer Street, Sunday, 3 January, 12.30pm – 2pm

Anyone who has attended the following venue at the following times is a casual contact and must immediately get tested and isolate until a negative result is received, and continue to monitor for symptoms and test again if any symptoms develop:

  • Nyngan: Nyngan Riverside Tourist Park, Barrier Hwy and Mitchell Hwy, Saturday, 2 January to Sunday, 3 January

Anyone who attended the following service stations must monitor for symptoms and if they appear, immediately get tested and isolate until a negative result is received:

  • Broken Hill: Broken Hill Shell, 164 Williams St, Saturday, 2 January, 10.52am – 10.55am
  • Nyngan: Nyngan BP, 180 Mitchell Hwy Nyngan on Sunday, 3 January, 9.10am – 9.13am

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UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson flags tougher COVID-19 restrictions likely on the way

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has flagged that more coronavirus restrictions are probably on the way for England, as COVID-19 cases continue to rise.

The country’s cases are at record levels and increasing, fuelled by a new and more transmissible variant of the virus.

The Government has already cancelled the planned reopening of schools in and around London, with calls from teaching unions for wider closures.

Much of England is already under the toughest level of restriction set out in a four-tier system of regional regulations designed to stop the spread of the virus and protect the national healthcare system.

But Mr Johnson, asked in a BBC interview about concerns that the system may not be enough to bring the virus back under control, said that restrictions “alas, might be about to get tougher”.

“There are obviously a range of tougher measures that we would have to consider … I’m not going to speculate now about what they would be,” he said.

Mr Johnson sets policy for England, with rules in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales set by their devolved authorities.

Britain registered a record 57,725 new cases of the virus on Saturday.

With more than 74,000 deaths so far during the pandemic, the Government’s response has been heavily criticised.


However the rollout of vaccines is set to accelerate on Monday, with the first 530,000 doses of the newly approved Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines ready to be administered, Mr Johnson said.

He added he hoped “tens of millions” would be treated over the next three months.

Addressing concerns over education, with millions of students set to return from their Christmas holidays on Monday, Mr Johnson said schools were safe.

He advised parents to send their children there in areas where it was allowed.

“There is no doubt in my mind that schools are safe, and that education is a priority,” he said.

The schools issue has split opinion, with unions and some local authorities warning against reopening and threatening to act against government advice.

Others have said closures have a big negative impact on students.

“We must renew and maintain the consensus that children’s time out of school should be kept to the absolute minimum,” Amanda Spielman, chief schools inspector, wrote in the Sunday Telegraph.


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Boris Johnson warns tougher coronavirus measures may be needed – POLITICO

Tougher restrictions on public life could be introduced in parts of the U.K. to counter the spread of the coronavirus, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Sunday.

“It may be that we need to do things in the next few weeks that will be tougher in many parts of the country, I’m fully, fully reconciled to that,” Johnson said in an interview with the BBC.

Johnson declined to give further details of any plan, but England already operates a four-stage program of restrictions depending on local infection rates. At present, London and much of the rest of the country is in the highest tier, meaning residents are urged to stay at home and non-essential businesses remain closed.

On January 2, some 57,725 people tested positive for the virus, taking overall infections to 2,599,789 as a national vaccination program continues. “We do hope that we’ll be able to do tens of millions in the course of the next three months,” said Johnson of the vaccination plan.

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